Critical Illness Is Associated with Impaired Gallbladder Emptying as Assessed by 3D Ultrasound

Mark P. Plummer, Palash Kar, Caroline E. Cousins, Trygve Hausken, Kylie Lange, Marianne J. Chapman, Karen L. Jones, Michael Horowitz, Adam M. Deane

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To quantify gallbladder dysfunction during critical illness. Design: Prospective observational comparison study of nutrient-stimulated gallbladder emptying in health and critical illness. Setting: Single-centre mixed medical/surgical ICU. Patients: Twenty-four mechanically ventilated critically ill patients suitable to receive enteral nutrition were compared with 12 healthy subjects. Interventions: Participants were studied after an 8-hour fast. Between 0 and 120 minutes, high-fat nutrient (20% intralipid) was infused via a postpyloric catheter into the duodenum at 2 kcal/min. Measurements and Main Results: Three-dimensional images of the gallbladder were acquired at 30-minute intervals from-30 to 180 minutes. Ejection fraction (%) was calculated as changes between 0 and 120 minutes. Blood samples were obtained at 30-minute intervals for plasma cholecystokinin. Data are mean (sd) or median [interquartile range]. In the critically ill, fasting gallbladder volumes (critically ill, 61 mL [36-100 mL] vs healthy, 22 mL [15-25] mL; p < 0.001] and wall thickness (0.45 mm [0.15 mm] vs 0.26 mm [0.08 mm]; p < 0.001] were substantially greater, and sludge was evident in the majority of patients (71% vs 0%). Nutrient-stimulated emptying was incomplete in the critically ill after 120 minutes but was essentially complete in the healthy individuals (22 mL [9-66 mL] vs 4 mL [3-5 mL]; p < 0.01]. In five critically ill patients (21%), there was no change in gallbladder volume in response to nutrient, and overall ejection fraction was reduced in the critically ill (50% [8-83%] vs 77 [72-84%]; p = 0.01]. There were no differences in fasting or incremental cholecystokinin concentrations. Conclusions: Fasted critically ill patients have larger, thicker-walled gallbladders than healthy subjects and nutrient-stimulated gallbladder emptying is impaired with "gallbladder paresis" occurring in approximately 20%.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e790-e796
Number of pages7
JournalCritical Care Medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • critical illness
  • gallbladder dyskinesia
  • gallbladder emptying
  • intensive care
  • ultrasound imaging

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